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Thursday marks Station Fire 1-year anniversary

August 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was a year ago Thursday that the massive Station Fire began, burning a large area of the Angeles National Forest, destroying 80 homes and leaving two firefighters dead.The fire was caused by arson, but a suspect has never been caught, one reason emotions are so high one year after the fact. Just next week, firefighters here at Station Number 2 will gather for a memorial, a time of silence to remember Captain Ted Hall and Foreman Arnie Quinones.

It was a time many people just cannot forget.

"Fire, smoke, heat, yeah, disaster," said Regina Ware, a victim of the fire. "We were desperate to get out of here. And then the shock coming back to see the devastation that has been left behind."

"We left when we figured there was no hope in doing anything to save our house," said fire survivor Jane Fontana.

"We really reflect on what we do and the ultimate price we may have to pay for doing what our job demands of us," said L.A. County Fire Captain Drew Smith.

The Station Fire was one of the most demanding of all. It was the largest recorded in Los Angeles County. A congressional investigation is under way to determine what was behind a critical judgment call: No aerial attack was ordered for six hours on the second day of the fire as it escalated.

"We aren't just people who are bellowing out because we need someone to blame," said Fontana. "In this case there is someone to blame."

Eighty families lost homes, including Ware's.

"The house was right over there and so the only thing you really saw was burned refrigerator, burned pipes," said Ware.

The equestrian center where she worked was spared, but two miles up the canyon it is a landscape of mostly ruins.

Many people have left the region for good. The U.S. Forest Service will not let them rebuild. Others struggle with building permits tied up in red tape.

But what Jane Fontana regrets most is a human cost.

"I think the biggest and saddest thing is with the two firefighters that died," said Fontana. "I think that they didn't have to die."

Captain Smith worked with Captain Ted Hall and Specialist Arnie Quinones.

"It's tough because you have those reflections of what it was like and what it's like now and it's different when you have a loss that impacts you so much," said Smith.

The reminders are everywhere in Big Tujunga Canyon. It remains closed to the public because of ongoing hazards, including flash floods.

In a statement Kathy Hall, Ted Hall's widow, said: "It gives us comfort to deal with our loss getting through the birthdays, holidays and anniversaries knowing that Ted would do anything to protect and keep the men working at Camp 16 safe."


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